The woman sitting on the birch wood rocking chair seemed peaceful, as she flipped through an old, worn photo album. The weather seemed almost perfect, with a soft breeze making the leaves in the trees rustle. I walked up to her and asked, “What are your dreams? Regrets? Would you change anything in your past if you could?” The woman looked up at me, and flipped to the first page of her album. The first picture was of a child-an infant. She said, “My dreams? Well, ever since I was little, I preserved little snippets of my life, for myself and others to see and remember.”
Pictures of an baby in a pastel purple onesie. In the picture, the baby seemed to be smiling, her smile b infectious, to the people around her. They were smiling as well. At a closer glance, the sound of laughter could be heard. The look in the baby’s eyes showed that everything in the world seemed new, magical even. The baby grew older, and became a toddler. Her first birthday was with a single candle on a vanilla birthday cake, her face covered in blue frosting and rainbow sprinkles, and surrounded by new toys. Her second birthday was with chocolate cake and hot pink frosting, with two candles instead of one, less frosting was on her face, but she looked happy anyway. Her third and fourth birthdays went by in a similar fashion, even though things were a bit different. However, the toddler’s face never changed. She was happy, and it was like nothing could’ve stopped her, not discouragement, not negative remarks, not anything.
“Looking at these pictures brings back good memories,” the woman continued, “even if I only scarcely remember the events shown in these photos. She turned to the next pages of the photo album. The pictures were now of a girl, maybe 5 or 6.
A picture of a drawing the girl drew at her preschool. A snapshot of her name on the corners of assignments, tests. Her first day of elementary school-she had gotten a new backpack-it had pastel blue polka dots. Her 6th birthday party was with a dozen cupcakes instead of a cake (but it was still delicious anyway). That time the girl’s family had a picnic-she had ran so long and so hard for what seemed like hours that day. On her 7th birthday, the girl had gotten a toy camera, and she spent the whole day playing with it. The first 5 tests that she had gotten in first grade (she got four A’s and one B).
“I wonder what would’ve happened if I had gotten a baseball instead of a camera, or a sketchbook,” said the woman, “How would my life had changed? Maybe all the problems I faced later wouldn’t have happened.” She turned to the next few pages.
Pictures of a girl-she seemed around 8 or 9. A sleepover she had with her friend (it was the first sleepover she had ever went to). Chocolate chip cookies that she had made with her mother. The cookies weren’t exactly the best-but her mother pretended that they were the best ones she had ever tasted. Her playing for her school’s soccer team (she had scored 2 goals that game). The girl’s tenth birthday was at a cabin-her family went camping. The picture her mother had taken of the girl and her father. She was still holding the toy camera she got years ago, and her father was holding a larger, black camera. Her eleventh birthday was at the amusement park that was a 30 minute drive away from her home. She had almost gotten sick from the rollercoaster that constantly spiraled.
The woman’s face was a combination of happiness, sadness and nostalgia as she looked at the pictures depicting her parents. She looked at a picture of her family for a long time before turning the page.
A picture of the girl’s family reunion that she went to over the summer. Her family was a lot bigger than she initially thought-she didn't know as much people as she thought. The girl’s first day of middle school had left her nervous, and already wishing that the school year was over (although by the end of the year, she had left thinking it wasn’t so bad). On the girl’s 13th birthday, she got an actual camera, identical to the one her father owned. She would keep that camera for decades. She had walked around the house, photographing almost anything that she found remotely interesting.
The woman looked through the pictures on those two pages, and the ones on the next couple of pages. They were all pictures of things someone could see today. A tall tree with dark green leaves. A couple of birds flying in the sky. “I guess ever since I was 13, I knew what my dream was.” The woman’s voice was a bit quiet now, only a bit louder than a whisper. “My dream was to photograph something great. Amazing! Like space, or the deep sea.” She smiled, as if thinking of a pleasant memory, and turned to the next pages.
Pictures of a girl in high school now. Her brown hair was tied back into a ponytail on her first day if high school, and she had gotten a new backpack. It was more simple-it was completely black except the silver keychain containing a picture of her family that she had hung on it. She looked more stressed now-she didn’t seem to smile as much, and her backpack seemed to be heavier with homework, and other things. But she seemed happy in the pictures with her friends, and her family. The girl had cooked breakfast for her parents on their anniversary, along with some chocolate chip cookies-her cooking had improved, and the cookies tasted much better than the ones she made when she was 9 years old.
“I wasn’t able to take as many pictures when I was in high school.” The woman seemed a bit disappointed-as if something was lost because of that. “I guess I was too busy? Still, I was able to take a few good ones.” Her fingers fluttered over a picture of a sunset.
Pictures of a family on a mountain range-they had decided to go there during their vacations. In one of them, they were each holding a black camera. The cameras seemed old, but well kept. Like treasured possessions. They were posing as if they were all taking a photo, and they were all smiling. Pictures of wildlife, taken from a distance. Pictures of birds, sunrises and sunsets, mountains partially covered with clouds.
“When I was younger, I almost had a chance to achieve my dreams,” the woman seemed regretful as she thought of this, “I suppose the choice I made in the end was the better choice, but I wonder what would’ve happened if I chose the other choice. Both of my choices had consequences, in the end.” She slowly turned to the next page, as if she didn’t want to see the photos on the next page, but also wanted to at the same time.
Pictures of a girl at a graduation ceremony, holding a certificate. She and her friends celebrated that day. A letter that was addressed to her-the picture was too small to see what was on it, but by the way the girl clutched the letter, and her expression told everyone that is was something absolutely amazing to her. A picture of her bedroom-an old toy camera was on the corner of her desk. A picture of a new apartment, with her standing in front of it. The place she worked at for her first job. A stack of books that seemed way too heavy to carry. And a picture of someone else, with her standing next to them.
The woman looked over the pictures, an almost blank look on her face. “I have some regrets that still bother me to this day, and if I could change what happened, I might, but it’s probably better to just move on after a while.” She was much more quiet as she flipped to the next page of the album.
Pictures of 2 people at a restaurant. The girl was older now-she seemed to be in her twenties. A picture of the girl holding a bachelor’s and master’s degree in photography. A party she had with her childhood friends. A picture her wearing some ornate earrings that she got for her birthday. A pair of birds on an old oak tree. Pictures of trip to the beach she went to with her parents-they still had their old cameras, which were much more worn and used. A picture of an ocean. A picture of a pair of pink and purple flowers. Tickets for a movie the girl went to see with someone else. A picture of a forest that she took for a magazine. A picture of a bee on a flower that she took as well.
“I genuinely enjoyed my job as a photographer.” The woman seemed a bit wistful. “I had many friends where I worked, and the atmosphere was really pleasant there. I’m still in contact with a lot of them today.” Her mood seemed to lighten, and she turned to the next page.
A wedding photo of 2 people. A picture of a cozy old brick house, and a garden of aster flowers in front of it. A picture of a waterfall that the two people went to (the waterfall had splashed them and left them wet for that entire day). A family picture of the woman and her family on a mountain range they went to years ago. A picture of a trio of cameras. The one on the left seemed the oldest while the one on the far right seemed to be the newest. A picture of a letter from a photography company.
“I had a chance to achieve my dreams when I got an offer from a photography company that I deeply admired, but it was costly. It was a risk that I didn’t want to take, but to me, it was like a once in a lifetime opportunity, and I didn’t think to ask for advice from others,” said the woman. “So, I ended up refusing the offer before I found out that I was able to take the risk.”
Pictures of a massive, leafy tree, and a bouquet of wildflowers on the ground, and pictures of 2 people gazing at the night sky. A picture of a necklace with a flower pendant, and a watch with initials engraved on it. A bookshelf full of worn books with dog-eared pages. A picture of a woman sitting on a birch rocking chair.
The last page of the woman’s photo album held only a single photo. She closed the album and said, “I have regrets, and maybe I didn’t achieve all of my dreams, but I also have gotten so many good things that I cherish in my life, and to me, that is more important.” She didn't continue. I looked at the woman’s old house. The rows of lilac aster flowers, the huge tree that looked like could be a century old. I saw the name written in cursive on the photo album’s cover.
The woman looked at the boy that stood in front of her. He seemed curious about the whole entire world, like it was full of mystery and he had to discover it. He was silent for a couple of seconds before he said, “Thank you!” and ran off. She gazed at the cover of the photo album, and traced the name on it with her fingers. Then she felt a sense of peace, closed her eyes and went to sleep, one last time.
The man sitting under the willow tree seemed peaceful as he read a book he had enjoyed reading since his childhood. I walked up to him and asked, “What are your dreams? Regrets? Would you change anything if you could?” He looked at me and and began to answer me. “I had enjoyed the book I’m reading ever since I was much younger than I am today. I guess it’s because…”